The archetypal sales professional suddenly looks very different. The transformation from an unmanageable, quick-talking master of the dark arts to a more data-savvy selling supremo is being expedited by the coronavirus and the trend for home working, remote selling and increased reliance of digital tools.
Industry experts believe the blurring of field and inside sales will spawn a hybrid sales professional. But what exactly are the likely requisite characteristics? And is this an opportunity to reposition the sales career path for those young people who wouldn’t have previously seen themselves as suitable?
“The sales professional of the future must have the digital skills to complement the welcoming personality,” says Jamie Barlow, managing director of Hyped Marketing. “Relationships are at the heart of all sales, whether it is a relationship with the brand or an individual. Salespeople need to ensure their digital and copywriting skills are up to scratch to promote their own personal brand, and to ensure their personality comes through.
“This involves taking the brand and encompassing it into their own messaging, while ensuring it still sounds like them. In this way, you get noticed for not being like everyone else and that’s something all salespeople should remember. People like to buy from people, not ‘robots’ who all sound the same.”
Simon Hayward, vice president, Europe, Middle East and Africa, at cloud software platform Domo, agrees. “Adaptability is the essential skill,” he says. “The pandemic has echoed the need for flexibility, both at a business level and also at a personal level. Those able to pivot quickly and identify new revenue streams will be most likely to thrive.”
Professionalisation of sales
Soft and hard skills will be vital, argues Timo Rein, Pipedrive’s co-founder and chief executive. “Sales professionals with soft skills are the critical sales weapon who almost all managers neglect,” he says. “Following this crisis, there will be a greater understanding of the value of these soft skills in a sales professional.
You get noticed for not being like everyone else. People like to buy from people, not ‘robots’
“Traits like perseverance, empathy and resourcefulness not only make such an employee a pleasure to work with, they also translate into high revenue-generating results.
“These communication skills mean their prospects and customers have someone to trust, allowing them to voice their concerns and help them to overcome any challenges.”
For Richard Higham, executive director at SalesLevers, communication remains a core facet for the sales professional of tomorrow. But in addition to being able to offer prospective and current customers detailed and timely information that engenders all-important trust, having a good handle on technology and data is essential, he says.
“They will need to be integrated into the business, and not sales as an outlier of business, plus entirely comfortable with technology and different forms of communication,” says Higham. “Because buyers will be more educated and better informed, a salesperson is no longer simply a transmitter of data, but an interpreter of data. The key word, though, is ‘professional’. There will be an increased professionalisation of sales.”